Earlier this month, the college released its first three-year summary of sexual misconduct reports in compliance with one of last year’s revisions to the sexual misconduct policy—“Policy and Procedures on Sexual Misconduct, Relationship Abuse, Violence, and Stalking”—in which the college agreed to publish such a report annually. The decision to share such information with students was made in an effort to inform the community about the college’s response to reports of sexual misconduct and to promote increased awareness about sexual misconduct on campus.
The summary contains data from fall of 2012 through spring of 2015. Reports are collected and publicized after a period of three years so that records are not identifiable to a particular person; furthermore, the report does not expose names.
Of the 49 reports of misconduct, 33 involved the enforcement of interim measures “designed to make a student feel safer and supported,” explained Kathy Bray, Title IX Coordinator and Associate Dean of Student Life. Such measures include, but are not limited to, eviction from college housing, restriction from student organizations, and a targeted educational program. Likewise, the reporting student may receive consolatory and academic-related considerations. The interim measures may be imposed at any time, regardless of whether or not the complainant or the college seeks formal disciplinary action.
In seven of the 49 reports, the student filing the report chose to submit a formal complaint to the Sexual Misconduct Board (SMB). A student can make a formal complaint for adjudication by submitting a written account of the incident to Tom Shandley, Dean of Students. Alternatively, a student can file a report with the intention not to initiate an investigation but to just “make the college aware of what happened,” explained Bray.
Of the 49 reports, three were deemed “unfounded,” meaning that either no factual evidence supported the claim or the claim was recanted; seven were “unsubstantiated”; and four did not have “sufficient information to investigate the basis for the claims” according to Bray.
The reason that students do not choose to file a formal complaint is a matter of speculation; however, Bray noted that perhaps students fear “potential social ramifications,” a concern that “speaks [to] a need in our community to change the culture so that people who have experienced sexual misconduct feel nothing but support.” Another reason, according to Bray, could be that students “may not want to go through the process of a hearing”; however, Bray emphasized that last year’s revisions to the sexual misconduct policy are intended to “make the process less arduous…[and] to simplify [the] investigation and hearing [processes] without compromising fairness and thoroughness.”
The SMB is comprised of faculty and staff who participate in annually- and monthly-required training. Starting this year, the hearing and investigative processes, stated Bray, will be “very different from previous years.” An important aspect that will remain the same, however, is that the complainant and the respondent are given the choice of having an advisor throughout the process.
After a formal complaint is submitted and Dean Shandley — without making a judgment of the factual basis of the claim — deems that the incident constitutes a violation of the policy, two investigators have separate conversations with the complainant and respondent, as well as with any witnesses. A report is then given to the SMB, and if the report is satisfactorily thorough, the board meets in an executive session and has two weeks to make a determination on the case and sanction disciplinary action. However, if any of the SMB members, or if either the complainant or respondent needs to have information clarified, then a conference with all parties is convened.
Sanctions, as referenced by the three-year summary, include, but are not limited to, probation, indefinite suspension, and referral to an educational program or counseling.
The length of the entire process is sensitive to the nature of the case. Bray attests that Davidson “[gives] priority to such cases [because] it is
important to be thorough and fair, but also provide resolution as soon as possible.”
Sexual misconduct is the “most underreported crime on every college campus,” said Bray. By increasing the scope of its revised sexual misconduct policy, Davidson hopes to help reverse this trend.